Friday, March 5, 2010

The Sailing Epicure

While many of us who sail take some satisfaction in the fact that our means of locomotion uses no fuel (especially of the fossil variety), we who handle the tiller and sails do, of course, burn calories. That energy comes from the foods we eat, and so sailing and eating are inextricably linked. This is a very serious issue, and we all remember stories we've read of sailors in the old days having to eat stale hardtack and wormy pork and suffering the ravages of scurvy. English sailors suffered scurvy on every long voyage up until the 19th century (with rare exception due to the progressive practices of captains such as James Cook), even though the preventative - citrus fruit juice - was known to the British Admiralty for centuries! For Japanese sailors, the problem was beriberi, a debilitating disease of the nervous and cardiovascular systems, due to the fact that their rations of white rice did not contain enough thiamine (vitamin B1). It was the study of beriberi which led to the discovery of vitamins.

Scurvy AND beriberi? Nah... The passenger ferry "Royal" on lake Ashinoko in 2007.

Today, we recreational sailors have no such worries. However, we still do have choices to make.

Nowadays, some sailors, perhaps single handed racers, may balk at the word "epicure" in this post's title, and prefer some "scientifically" concocted "sports" food/drink/fuel chugged or sipped from a bottle rather than a relaxed, sit-down menu of sensuously appealing natural delights that also happen to provide the nutrients necessary to perform a sailor's duties. That's fine by me. Those same folk are often into a sort of sailing "minimalism" - where the whole point of the thing is winning a race. That's OK too. Whatever floats your dinghy. I do appreciate such people and applaud their pursuits.

But others of us enjoy sailing for its own sake and likewise food, music and friends. Our sailing is often leisurely and best shared with others, as are our meals. We fit into what is called the "slow life movement", which I believe started in the UK and has been well received in Japan. Happily, there is room in this world for all of us. I sincerely hope.

A sailing "fuel" I enjoy here in Japan at this time of year is "sasa mochi". It is steamed mochi rice, which is pounded with added "kusa" (Japanese name for the herb mugwort) and stuffed with tsubu-an - a not too sweet azuki bean paste. It comes wrapped in a dwarf bamboo leaf - sasa. It tastes especially nice served with ocha (green tea).

As much as pandas like bamboo, Pandabonium doesn't eat the wrapping.

Mugwort is sometimes called "sailor's tobacco". As a medicinal herb it has found numerous uses in many parts of the world, from ancient Rome to China.

So join us for a sail on Lake Hinuma and have a taste of sasa mochi. Barring that, at least take the time to be aware of and try to deeply appreciate all the sailing "fuels" you have the opportunity to taste in your home port.

Until next, sweet sailing.


ladybug said...

Very interesting! Mugwort is a prominent plant in herbal circles as well! Speaking of eating while boating...I have in my old Martha Stewart Magazine pile somewhere an article on taking a picnic lunch while out cruising on her Hinckley boat. Now I haven't the faintest idea what a Hinkley is...but the picnic lunch thing sounds good.

Pandabonium said...

Ladybug - Hinckley has made classic wooden yachts - both power and sail models - for 80 years. The Picnic boat is a power cabin cruiser style. Martha Stewart can afford one, they cost a couple of hundred thousand. But you can go picnicking with a Lido for a whole lot less. ;^)

bonnie said...

Oh, yum. One of the trips I miss the most since I left the Hudson is the one where we'd paddle to the Japanese mall in Edgewater, NJ & have sushi or ramen. I would always come home with a little box of sweets like this!

Don Snabulus said...

Sasa mochi looks good. Green tea sounds good too, but it is too late in the day for me...tomorrow would be better. We are eating at a homestyle Japanese restaurant tomorrow. They have a pretty wide variety. I will ask about sasa mochi.

Pandabonium said...

Bonnie - I remember you posting about that on Frogma. Nice shop.

Don - They might call them kusa mochi as well. Have a wonderful meal.

Zen said...

Mugwort is also good for sleeping and good dreams, when placed under a pillow in a sack.

Pandabonium said...

Zen - good dreams - that's something I could use of late ...I'll give it a try.